THE Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) had refused to issue a commercial television licence to Munhumutapa African Broadcasting Corporation (MABC) as government continues to maintain a stranglehold on the electronic media.
The government-appointed BAZ last month wrote to MABC to inform the broadcasting aspirants that their application had failed. This means that state-controlled ZTV remains the only free-to-air television station in the country.
BAZ said the MABC application could not succeed because the applicant had failed to demonstrate that it had the financial resources to operate a television station. The broadcasting authority also ruled that MABC should not be issued with a licence because it owed Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) an undisclosed amount of money.
MABC flirted with broadcasting in the late 1990s when it bought capacity from ZBC to air its programmes. The station was eventually switched off after ZBC alleged that MABC was failing to pay it.
BAZ cited this as an aggravating factor in denying MABC a licence.
“This is aggravated by the fact the applicant has no funds of its own which means that whatever funds or equipment the applicant secures for this project stands the risk of being executed upon to settle the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation debt rendering the licence issuance futile,” said BAZ in its decision dated August 3.
Documents to hand show that MABC says it has secured equipment from Jos Hansen and Soehne of Germany through Euro Technology Zimbabwe.
“Payments to Jos Hansen will be effected once confirmation of the licence is known in order to protect the investors’ funds,” says a letter to Interfin Merchant Bank from Camelsa, MABC’s financial advisors.
BAZ in its verdict on the licence said MABC had indicated that its funds would come from people in the Diaspora through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Homelink scheme.
“In other words, the person who was ultimately to determine the substantive direction of the business of the applicant was yet to come,” said BAZ. “It became clear that the authority (BAZ) was not dealing with the real prospective licensee yet.”
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has already granted MABC approval to use free funds exempt from exchange control regulations to import equipment.
Asked to comment on the failure of the MABC application, Information deputy minister Bright Matonga yesterday said BAZ would make a presentation to the ministry on why the licence had not been granted.
“If they did not grant that licence, they have to give reasons to the ministry,” said Matonga. “We want to emphasise that we need more players in the broadcasting sector. We cannot continue to have a situation where ZTV is the only television station.”
He said the ministry was willing to change the Broadcasting Services Act if it was too restrictive to prospective licencees.
“It would be hypocritical for us to say we want more players when the regulations are too restrictive,” said Matonga.
Since the enactment of the BSA three years ago, BAZ has not licensed a single independent operator. – Staff Writer.